Screen time is the amount of time spent using any device with a screen such as smartphones, tablets, computers or games consoles.
Balancing screen time has become an important consideration to ensure that children and young people use technology in a positive and healthy way. Screen time when managed correctly can be educational, informative, and a great way for children to staying in touch with friends and family. It only becomes an issue if children and young people become dependent on it and it starts affecting other things in their life.
Too much screen time can affect children’s behaviour, sleep and concentration. It can also lead to less physical activity and social interaction.
There is no right or wrong answer for how much time people spend on technology or online. Each family situation is different leading to different expectations and behaviours but becoming aware of your current usage is the first step to discovering if there might be too much screen usage at home.
Do you have any family rules for limiting tech time?
Are all members of your family allowed to have access and use of technology in your house day and night, for seven days a week or are there rules that are in place to try and restrict the screen time of children and young people? Are there different rules for school nights and the weekend?
For example, some families might have a rule which says 'no technology at the dining table' or 'no technology for an hour before bedtime'. Different families may have no rules, some rules or even lots of rules – one set of options might not suit every family the same.
A good approach is to have a family agreement which makes it clear for everybody what the limits of technology use are.
Many parents and carers are using controls across the family devices to help make sure these rules are working. These controls are often buried within the settings of the devices and might require an adult to set a PIN or password to limit access to this area. As an example, it might be possible to limit access to the Wi-Fi router after a certain time for your children’s devices. One issue is that each piece of technology tends to have its own set of settings which might be confusing.
Internetmatters.org have a great site for parents and carers full of useful information on using parental controls as do Childnet International.